I’m running down the two-lane island road… there are few cars, fewer people, and a horse. I notice the cadence of my feet, how they meet the pavement, how they flex and lift, and how my forward motion is smooth and assured. I notice times, too, when my foot crashes a bit (especially the left one), how the energy doesn’t move up and through, how I am hurling myself, inch by inch, through space. Then, suddenly I lighten up. I am whooshing along, the upper part of my body carried effortlessly forward by some magical turning of my legs below.
The whole time, I breathe the morning air. I breathe in and out. I run through the ease and excitement, the fatigue and fear, the heaviness and levity. I run right back through the door I came from.
Every midwife knows
that not until a mother’s womb
softens from the pain of labor
will a way unfold
and the infant find that opening to be born.
There is treasure in your heart,
it is heavy with child.
All the awakened ones,
like trusted midwives,
are saying welcome this pain.
It opens the dark passage of grace.
We talk in Hakomi about scaffolding… about how the beliefs we’ve adopted and are not (yet) conscious of create a scaffolding before us, and that our movements into life occur within this framework. The beliefs may have served us well at one time, but they often now limit us. The good news is that we are confined only until we become conscious; only until those ideas are noticed, cared for and offered the opportunity of nuance and movement. Only until we come into accord with the way things actually are.
In this process of healing and growing we do not completely disown or leave behind old ways of relating to the world. It is simply that new ways of relating are added to our repertoire, and a measure of awareness and choice is introduced where before we acted habitually and automatically. None of this happens, however, by denying or avoiding our present way of being.
— Greg Johanson and Ron Kurtz, Grace Unfolding: Psychotherapy in the Spirit of Tao-te ching
I have a part — a belief — that I should already know everything; that I’m “fine.” That I am dragging myself (and everyone else!) through the morass of emotionality, through the muck and darkness… That perhaps I should just start thinking positively and stop looking inward. I have a part that doesn’t want to go through the dark passage of grace, who doubts it is grace at all.
And I have another part — this one is inexorably drawn to tease out every last bit of the realness of life and to see for myself: Is this good? I don’t know the question I am asking until I am swimming in the answer.
There is a moment of stillness… Everyone else is outside at this moment, and I sit in the chair, and I begin…
With gratitude I remember all the people, plants, animals, insects, and creatures of the earth, sky, and sea, all whose joyful exertion blesses my every day…
With gratitude I remember the care and labor of a thousand generations of elders and ancestors who came before me…
And I go on… all the rest, until the gratitude for my life — for life — is felt so deeply that I am crying.
I offer my gratitude for the safety and well-being I have been given.
I offer my gratitude for the blessings of this earth I have been given.
I offer my gratitude for the measure of health I have been given.
I offer my gratitude for the family I have been given.
I offer my gratitude for the friends and companions I have been given.
I offer my gratitude for the communities I have lived in, and continue to live in.
I offer my gratitude for the teachings and lessons I have been given.
I offer my gratitude for the life I have been given.*
How do these tears happen? All I can say is that it’s molecular, not cerebral. I am sitting in the u-shaped chair, and my head and shoulders are draped backward. Rom comes in, asks gently as he walks by, “What are you doing, honey?”
It is good.
I feel, more and more, that life is good. Not that I am having a good life (though that is true) but that life itself is good.
I encounter the landscapes within, these structures and ideas, and I notice them. I notice the movement, how the movement changes, how things fall away and new rhythms arrive. I notice the scaffolding, and I see what is changing, but I do not yet know what I am building.
Though perhaps I am not building at all. Perhaps I am doing nothing. Perhaps I am just being. Being with.
I continue with the meditation practice, moving from gratitude to joy, and bring to mind someone it is easy to feel happy for, then a benefactor, then a loved one, then a neutral person, then someone with whom I have difficulty, and finally, all beings, everywhere, without exception.
I conjure-offer to each in turn…
May you be joyful.
May your happiness increase.
May you not be separated from great happiness.
May your good fortune and the causes of your happiness and joy increase.*
I am sitting next to a pool of water, a small, cool pool and I am invited to drink from it. That one part of me wants to lean down, take a perfunctory sip, and move on, but that other part (my new repertoire) is asking that I stay awhile, that I sit with the water, that I notice it, and that I drink from it, if at all, with every pore of my being.
Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.
— Tao Te Ching, translated by Stephen Mitchell
* These gratitude and joy practices are (very slightly modified) from Jack Kornfield’s book The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindess, and Peace. I am in the third part of my yearlong brahma-viharas practice: sympathetic joy, or the arising of our own happiness upon seeing the happiness of others. For more about my year-of-love practice, go here.